Anthony “Tony” Kodis, Athletic Stockroom Coordinator, feels at home in the subterranean conclave next to the boys’ locker room, but could not have envisioned himself there 20 years ago.
“I had worked my way up the culinary field, but I had just gotten to the point where I was tired. I needed a change and I’ve always had a passion for sports. So on New Years Day, I walked up to my boss and handed in my chef’s jacket and left the business,” said Tony.
He then attended umpire school in Ormond Beach, Florida for two months. When he came back to his home state of Massachusetts, Tony landed a place as the Brockton Rox clubhouse manager.
“I was making money, but barely enough to survive, just trying to find out what I was going to do, that’s when I jumped to Merrimack [College],” said Tony. “I took the head job as head equipment manager and basically was raw. I completely did not know what was going on.”
Tony became a certified manager in his second year at Merrimack. In his fourth and final year at Merrimack, Tony was married and had his first daughter.
Tony claims his three daughters are the reason that ‘Story of My Life’ by One Direction plays in the athletic stockroom.
After Merrimack, Tony worked at Monmouth University before interviewing at Andover with Mike Kuta, Director of Athletics.
“I took a step back in a sense. [Monmouth University] was a bigger school with more Division I sports, all Division I across the board and Division I NCAA Football. However, I was in an assistant equipment manager position. But, I could still stay in the field and continue to work towards what I loved,” said Tony.
“I took the job here when they offered it to me, I moved the whole family back and I’m enjoying it,” he continued. This is Tony’s fifth year at Andover.
“When I took over in here, the situation was a little bit chaotic. I had to fill the dumpster six times, just to clean it out,” said Tony.
Jason Ingemi, who joined Tony as an equipment manager two years ago, said, “When Tony took over and Blaine [the former equipment manager] was gone, there were no racks. Blaine didn’t have organization – he had boxes and bags and literally thirty years of stuff.”
Like Tony, Jason grew up in Danvers, Massachusetts and also has a background in the food industry. Jason developed a passion for sports in high school where he was on the football, track and baseball teams. When he heard about a job opening at Andover, he jumped at the opportunity. This is his first job in the equipment managing business.
On any given day, dressed in his well-worn Phillips Academy t-shirt, navy blue sweats and quintessential Andover Football camouflage baseball cap, Tony works at his desk in the athletic stockroom of Borden Gym.
By 3 p.m., however, when classes are done for the day and students are making the transition from academics to athletics, Tony is doing very little sitting. Instead, he and Jason exchange towels, dole out jerseys and fetch loops to ensure that students arrive fully equipped at their respective afternoon sports.
Tony brought the popular loop laundry system to Andover. The system uses strips of durable fabric that can be looped around clothes with a plastic buckle and thrown in the washer. He has used this system throughout his 11-year career as an equipment manager.
Jason said, “At the college level, they have these loop systems, and [Tony] brought it here, which is really great for all the athletic classes students have.”
According to Tony, the equipment worn by Andover athletes is the same used by many Division I colleges and some professional teams.
“When I first took over here, we bought 48 new helmets and 48 sets of shoulder pads immediately—that was one of the first big moves that I made,” said Tony. “I took a look at the equipment that we were using and said, ‘wait a second we need to take a look at the safety of the kids and make sure we can focus our finances on something that’s really important,” he continued.
Tony and Jason will often collaborate with Athletic Director Mike Kuta to ensure student safety.
“We are constantly meeting over specifications on rule changes and what goes into equipment purchasing. I mean the whole concussion thing with football that has come up in the last four to five years,” said Tony.
One of their notable collaborations this year has been the bright blue Coed@40 shirts sported by Varsity athletes. The shirts commemorate the 40-year anniversary of the merger between Phillips Academy and Abbot Academy.
This year has also seen the outfitting of all the Junior Varsity Basketball teams with the same uniform. This is a system that Tony and Kuta hope will promote mobility among the teams.
“[I hope this will] increase the opportunity for coaches to take kids up, the flexibility for kids to be able to go up and down and play for different teams,” said Tony.
The stockroom also introduced girls wrestling shirts for the all-girls New England wrestling tournament last month.
“The girls were pumped. It was the first women’s wrestling tournament, and that was cool in itself. They were super psyched about it, and that was awesome. I like doing that stuff,” said Jason.
Jason said that the stock room easily contains up to 10,000 pieces of equipment.
“We got track spikes up the wazoo, we got helmet parts all over the place, chin straps—it’s a different set up for football, than lacrosse, than hockey. Softball helmets take facemasks even with chinstraps now,” he said, “[We have] thousands of pennies for every intramural thing that ever happens.”
Tony said the stockroom houses almost 500 football jerseys alone.
“The biggest problem we find is that stuff gets outdated really quickly. If you take care of it, inventory it correctly and recondition it, the equipment lasts longer. That’s one of the big things we are focused on,” said Tony.
Taking care of the equipment is not a problem for Tony and Jason.
“There are a lot of different things in [the stockroom]. There are a lot of older things that we found: old lacrosse helmets, you know, leather and metal helmets, cleats, etc. A lot of stuff ended up in the Athletic Director’s office because we’ve kind of brought our history up there,” said Tony.
Matt Hyde ’92, a scout for the New York Yankees, came to Andover to partake in an annual talk with Varsity Baseball. To thank him, Jason and Tony looked for something to remind him of his time at Andover and managed to tracked down Hyde’s 22-year-old Andover Varsity Baseball uniform.
“He was just floored. It was such a little thing, but he loved it. He wrote us a thank you letter and said it was going to be displayed prominently in his office. He has this Andover shirt, probably in a frame, hanging in the Yankees offices. How cool is that?” said Jason.
Walking through the stock room is like a trip back in time.
Suspended from the ceiling by string and propped up with lacrosse sticks and baseball bats hang vintage jerseys. Each of them represents a different sport and chapter in Andover’s athletic history.
At the back of the stockroom, there is a wall of wooden cupboards, each square shelf full of Andover apparel, much of it outdated. Jason said, “This is stuff we wound up having to keep because it was on the books, numbers wise. We had to clean it up, organize it all so we could eventually sell it.”
“Look,” he said as held up an old pair of obscure, gray shorts. They bore the classic Andover A, but looked as though someone had simply taken a pair of scissors to a pair of sweatpants. “This was wicked cool in 1987, we can’t just get rid of them because the budget that we work on has them in it.”
As equipment grows older and is deemed surplus, Tony and Jason find uses for them aside from decoration and memorabilia.
“Now I’ve slowly started to recycle and reuse things for my tent sales. I’ve done one so far; I’d like to do another next year,” said Tony.
Last year, during Parent’s Weekend, Tony and Jason set up a large blue tent, under which they sold Andover gear they chose to bring out from the stockroom.
“Probably the old jerseys are the coolest things [to buy], whether it’s the current students who want to have that throwback feel or returning alumni,” said Jason.
Not all items however, are for sale. When Andover hosts alumni basketball games, Jason conjures up vintage uniforms from the depths of the stockroom: fifteen whites and fifteen blues.
“They’re like old and scratchy and probably way too small for people in their thirties but they love it,” said Jason.
Recently, Yo-Yo Ma, whose daughter graduated from Andover, reached out to the equipment managers.
“We got in the mail, a package and a letter from him—it was an Andover letterman jacket and the letters on the back had fallen off, he sent it to us to get redone,” said Jason.
Searching through the stock room is like an archaeological dig of sorts, each dig uncovers a new part of Andover’s athletic history.
Although day-to-day life is full of logistics regarding uniforms and equipment, Jason and Tony always look at the bigger picture.
“We try to take care of the kids, whether you play JV2, JV or Varsity, we want them all to feel special. They are representing the school when they are out on that field, no matter what sport they are playing, no matter what level they’re playing at,” said Tony.
“The whole point is to bring it up a level. We are Andover. When you go to other places in the country or the world, whether you work at Andover or go to Andover, people know that’s Phillips Academy,” he continued.
Tony and Jason embody the notion of Non Sibi through their relationships with students.
“This is going to sound wicked corny, but you [students] are my favorite part. We work in athletics so when you guys are down here it’s like your break from school. It’s your break from all the crazy hard work that you guys have to do. Relax a little bit; it is your fun time. You guys make it fun,” said Jason, smiling.
Nobody understands the healing effects of sports more than Tony and Jason. Although at times his line of work requires some strict adherence to procedure that may come across as bitter, behind Tony’s famous beard is a man who genuinely cares for the students he services.
Last year’s graduating class was the first that Tony had been working with for all four of their years at the school.
“What made me work here and what makes me stay? Dealing with the students, seeing the kids faces and watching them grow up over four years. They come in as youngsters and watching them grow up into young adults in a sense, is really cool,” said Tony.
Tony continued, “I want the kids to feel good. Not only are they safe but they feel good about themselves. You look at the old saying ‘Look good, feel good, play good,’ it starts down here.”
This summer, Tony and Jason hope to get Jason certified as an equipment manager. In the spring they will attend a prep school equipment manager convention at Choate. The two have big plans for Andover athletics.
“When I started on this adventure in athletics, did I ever think I was going to end up where I am now? No, but you never do, you kind of just go with the flow and where you land is where you land. You have objectives and ideas of what you want, but you never know where you’re going to go. I want to go back to school, I want to get into athletics and I definitely have ideas that I want to go further here,” said Tony.